JASC Legacy Center Presents: Nikkei Queer*

JASC Legacy Center Presents A “Memories of Now” Seminar Series Presentation, NIKKEI QUEER: A Workshop on Making Our Spaces LGBTQ Affirming
Thursday, August 18th, 2016, 6:30pm – 8:00pm

Join us for a workshop at JASC on creating safer and more affirming spaces for LGBTQ people. In thinking about the present and future of Japanese American communities, how do we work toward communities that are safer for Japanese Americans who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning? Participants will work on recognizing and interrupting homophobia and transphobia, and more broadly, taking on more expansive notions of sexuality and gender. This workshop is open to everyone, including people who have little or no experience engaging with LGBTQ issues. Gender neutral restrooms will be available.

Workshop Organizer Bios:

Anne is a queer Yonsei/Nisei social worker in mental health services in Chicago. She is a member of Invisible to Invincible: Asian Pacific Islander Pride of Chicago (i2i) and the Racial Justice working group of i2i, which focuses on mobilizing queer API in solidarity with movements for black lives and addressing anti-black racism in API communities. Anne cares about community, history, and personal & collective healing in their many forms.

JJ Ueunten is a queer Yonsei Okinawan and Japanese American who grew up in Hawaii. They organize with Invisible to Invincible: Asian Pacific Islander Pride of Chicago (i2i) and with the Chicago Dyke March Collective, through which they work toward racial justice and justice for LGBTQ people. They are currently studying massage therapy, and delight in cooking, eating, and dreaming about food.

Andrew Leong is an assistant professor of English and Japanese literature at Northwestern University. A Shin-Nisei of mixed Chinese and Japanese heritage, he has translated pre-World War II Japanese-language novellas, plays, and poetry which recover a neglected history of same-sex sexuality and sociality among so-called “Issei bachelors” and inform his current book project on same-sex and mixed-race desires: Shut the Door: Japanese American Fictions of Exclusion and Desire.

* Message from workshop organizers regarding the use of the word “queer” in the title of this program:
We’re writing to address our choice of the word “queer” in the title of the upcoming Memories of Now workshop that we are organizing and facilitating. Some members of the community have expressed offense at the use of “queer” as a word that is derogatory. It is very heartening to us that there are people in the JA community who are willing to speak up on behalf of people who are LGBTQ when they believe an injustice is being done. One of our main goals with this workshop is to give people tools to interrupt homophobia and transphobia, and we are excited that there is a willingness to do that.

We use “queer” as people who find power in using the word to describe our identities, experiences, and the communities we are a part of. The term “queer” has been used by LGBTQ communities since the 1980’s as a reclaimed term of self-identification and empowerment, and is widely used by many LGBTQ people, organizations, communities, scholars and activists today. We understand that at earlier points in time, people used queer as a label, often in conjunction with other violence, to demean those who were or were perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. But there is also an extensive history of LGBTQ communities using the word for ourselves as a way to take away its power to hurt us. A summary of the history and significance of the term queer can be found on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queer.

Another reason we use the word “queer” is for inclusivity. Queer is often used as an umbrella term to describe non-heterosexual, non-cisgender people, many of whom do not fall strictly into specific identity categories. Some of us aren’t women or men, and fall somewhere in between or in both or outside of those gender categories. Some of us don’t experience our attraction as strictly lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Using the term queer is one way for us to recognize a wider range of identities and experiences around gender and sexuality.

We recognize that the term “queer” is often in greater use among younger people, and can still be hurtful to those who identify as LGBTQ, depending on how the term is being used. We hope that this explanation of “queer” as a term that feels powerful to us is helpful in not having our use of the term hurt others. We are excited to know that people in the JA community are speaking up in support of LGBTQ people and recognize that our initial use of the term without context or explanation may have been very unsettling. We hope that this helped to address those concerns and invite you to reach out to us to continue the conversation if anyone has questions, thoughts or concerns.

Presentation Location:
Japanese American Service Committee (JASC)
4427 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60640
Event and Parking are Free.

RSVP to Ryan Yokota at 773-275-0097, ext.222 or ryokota@jasc-chicago.org 

Co-sponsored by Invisible to Invincible: Asian Pacific Islander Pride of Chicago (i2i), Chicago Japanese American Historical Society (CJAHS) and Japanese American Citizens League-Chicago Chapter (JACL-Chicago)

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